Live blog: Senate Media Reform Bills inquiry

Live blog: Senate Media Reform Bills inquiry
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Parliamentary joint committee into the media reform laws are taking place this morning and a separate Senate Committee will take place this afternoon. You may need to refresh your browser to see the latest posts by hitting f5.

3.05pm . . . and that's probably the end of any sensible debate to emanate from parliament with name calling to be the order of the day. So in summary, we have seen a lively day in Canberra. We have had Australia's media bosses descend on Canberra to argue passionately for and against the relaxation of the 65% reach rule depending on what they stand to gain or lose.

Austereo's Rhys Halloran and Nine Entertainment Co David Gyngell say that a relaxation of the rule is imperative. Channel Ten's Hamish McLennan on his first day in the job says it will be a disaster for more than just his new charge if the law  is to go ahead. Kerry Stokes said he thought the reach rule should be lifted, but that not now and not in the manner it has been proposed here.

Perhaps one of the more interesting areas of debate was the worth of FreeTV Australia, when its member organisations all agreed to the lifting of the 75% rule, yet now many of them are railing against it.

3.02pm Not surprisingly, the Government  has taken it badly with Leader of the House Anthony Albanese lamblasting Turnbull saying that the Opposition only took "two words" to be against the media law reforms: "public interest". 

2.55pm Switch to Parliament and Malcolm Turnball is letting fly with his opinions about the media laws. He has labelled the Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA) as the Political Interest Media Advocate. He says that if the PIMA is passed in legislation, the Coalition would repeal it if it were elected to power.

1.08pm New changes to the ABC Charter would open up a loop hole allowing advertising on ABC's online platforms. However, the ABC says that it currently has no restrictions to anything other than broadcasting and it is a policy decision of the ABC board to extend a ban on all advertising on all ABC platforms except for magazines and the ABC shop. So essentially a storm in a teacup.

12.46pm The Australia Network (ABC-provided international network service) is one of the areas being changed by the proposed legislation whereby the ABC would be guaranteed the right to provide the international broadcast service without it ever going to tender. The ABC reps don't appear to have a problem with this.

12.45pm And he's out of time and SBS and the ABC is next up.

12.40pm Senator Doug Cameron asks Hywood about the press council's "lack of processes". Hywood says it's fair enough to ask the question, especially given the UK phone hacking council, but he says a government watch dog is a step too far.

12.35pm The Senators are having a barny between themselves over Hywood being asked why the rush with the legislation? He says it shouldn't be rushed.

12.32pm Hywood says media diversity in Australia has never been better and that anyone entering into journalism today would have a bright future.

12.30pm Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood is now addressing the Senate Committee into media reforms

12.21pm Stokes: "Do I want to take over Prime? No particularly, I think they do a good job."

12.17pm Stokes says a third player in regional news "will go broke" . . . and that "the bankers, out of the goodness of their hearts" will maintain higher cost models. "Undertakings are good until someone puts their hand up and says I'm out of money".

12.15pm Stokes says he has no issue with News Limited so long as he has a level playing field. What he does have an issue with is everyone having the same starting gun on the 75% rule change. He's implying Nine and Southern Cross Media ha prior knowledge of this current legislative process.

12.10pm Stokes says under questioning that he believes the ACCC would prevent News Limited buying Channel Ten.

12.07pm Stokes says in response to a Barnaby Joyce question that if he were in charge of the Nine Southern Cross merger he would have it done in a month after the 75% rule being lifted.

12.05pm Stokes says free TV should be free on the NBN for broadcaster and that's a matter of ongoing discussion.

12.01pm Good afternoon! Malcolm Turnbull asks Stokes whether removing the 75% reach rule would necessarily impact on local news? He points to Win and Prime doing lots of local news and Southern Cross doing very little. Stokes: no.

11.59am Stokes questions why a merged entity would need to give an undertaking. He says if Southern Cross (owned by Macquarie Bank) wanted to support local news they would have already done it.

11.58am Stokes is asked whether he thinks regional news is healthy and vibrant in Australia? The answer is colourful but basically means no.

11.56am Stokes says that the way this legislation has been presented is like there was a race and there are two starters on the blocks and the rest of us were unaware there was a race.

11.55am He says he has never seen bankers work for the benefits of the community, referring to Nine Entertainment Co's owners.

11.51am Kerry Stokes says that Seven West has had a long association with regional news and "we don't really care about the 75% rule". What is clear, he says, is that there has not been anywhere near enough debate about its removal and the implications. "There shouldn't be winners and losers from this debate."

11.47am And that's it for Nine. So the story is that Nine will protect regional news. Here's Channel Seven and Kerry Stokes; this ought to be interesting.

11.38am Gyngell makes another impassioned speech to the committee to understand that local news is a key commercial imperative and that Time Warner and Disney don't sell the digital rights to shows (on demand) as they see it as a way into the Australian market. If 10% of people start to watch shows over the Internet, it would take half of Nine's current profits. He says allowing Nine to have access to local news is about protecting themselves from the US invaders.

11.36am Barnaby Joyce takes Gyngell to task because his undertakings don't include a promise to keep regional offices open. Gyngell says it's just a draft and the undertaking will be in the next version.

11.33am Rob Oakeshott asks Gyngell about the enforceable undertakings and whether it should be extended to other free to air networks. Gyngell says it would be onerous to ask the others. He says it's just what he would do.

11.29am Gyngell says that the enforceable undertakings he is willing to commit to would go further than what Win and Prime etc are delivering.

11.28am Barnaby Joyce asks Gyngell if he will commit to preserving regional newsrooms and staff. He says he will, but adds you're all getting hung up on efficiencies and that for him it's not about efficiencies it's about capturing value.

11.25am Malcolm Turnbull asks him where the efficiencies are in a merger if he maintains local news content? Gyngell says "gone are the days when you can just put on US content . . . local news rate highly . . . it makes you the programme schedule to make money . . . the Time Warners and the Disneys are coming and you need to be able to capture that value."

11.24am He's cut short because of the time constraints. He says that he would never advocate having the rule removed if there was any doubt that regional news would be removed. "It's good commercial sense to have local news".

11.21am Gyngell is reading a prepared statement: it's powerful stuff for the abolition of the 75% rule.

11.20am: Here comes David Gyngell

11.13am The general mood of the committee appears to be one of frustration at the pace of process for such significant reforms. All the bosses have railed against the timeframes and the non-Labour senators are equally frustrated. You'd have to say it's not looking too good for the reforms.

11.05am A lot of questions have been asked of the individual media bosses and their membership to FreeTV when they have all signed on as members of that organisation yet have distanced themselves from the submission it made last year supporting a lifting of the 75% reach rule.

10.58am Investors appear to believe that McLennan has done his job of convincing the committee not to allow the 75% rule to be lifted as Southern Cross Media shares are dropping in early trade today, down 2.5% to 1.75. Last week they broke through $1.70, when Turnbull indicated he thought lifting the 75% rule made a lot of sense.

10.52am And that's it for Channel Ten. Next up is the Communications Law Centre.

10.49am Turnbull asks McLennan if he would support a change to the reach rule if provisions for regional content protection were in place? McLennan avoids the question and goes back to the standard line that the 75% reach rule cannot be passed in isolation.

10.46: Shadow Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull asks McLennan to walk the committee through the implications of a merger between Nine and Southern Cross. He is clearly trying to paint Channel Ten as acting purely out of self interest.

10.44am Barnaby Joyce asks McLennan whether the reach rules are keeping regional offices open and regional journalists employed? McLennan says he has "no doubt this is the case".

10.40am Doug Cameron takes exception to McLennan's line arguing that the regional players (Win, Prime etc) are in favour of the 75% reach rule.

10.37am McLennan continues to say that in his eyes the merger between Nine and Southern Cross Media is a fait accompli if the 75% rule is relaxed and is begging the committee to not allow it to happen in such a "rushed manner".

10.35am McLennan says that he intends to make "further commitments to news (as in reporting, not Murdoch) in its future programming.

10.34 McLennan points to News Limited's previous statement that it has no interest in Ten. He also suggests the inquiry might be better placed asking Kim William's questions regarding News Limited.

10.30: McLennan is asked about the Murdoch family's influence over him and the potential of News Limited to take over Channel Ten. He sticks to the well trodden path that there is no Murdoch control of Network Ten

10.20am Hamish McLennan warns that looking a the 75% rule independently will allow changes to go ahead that cannot be unwound if the rest of the package were to be passed.

 

was not in the public interest.

10.16am Network Ten's new boss Hamish McLennan, on his first day in the new job, said that if the reach rule was pulled away the merger between Southern Cross Media and Nine Entertainment Co would "go ahead very quickly", and that he was "very, very concerned" of the reach rule being singled out in the Bill.

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